Feminism is at a cultural high point. It's almost more taboo to say that you're not a feminist than to say you are–which is a huge shift from how things used to be as little as ten years ago.
Being a feminist simply means that you believe in the political, economical, and societal equality of the sexes. However, in today's world, that level of equality is not yet a reality (and in fact, we are still a long way off). That's why modern feminism tends to look towards the future; to work towards a tomorrow where equality of the sexes is a reality.
But what about the feminists who came before us–the ones who fought for women's rights when equality was nothing but a glimmer on the horizon? Let's take a moment to turn the feminist lens backwards and learn about equality, persistence, hard work, and values from the ladies who paved the way.
"You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right." - Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist in the 1950s. She made a statement when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to accommodate a white passenger, and her stand inspired countless others to fight for equal rights. She's known as "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement"–so yeah, we're going to take her words to heart.
"I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won't be the last." - Jeanette Rankin
Would you believe us if we told you that a woman held a national office position in 1916? Jeanette Rankin was the first woman to do so in the United States of America. As a women's rights activist, Rankin was instrumental in passing the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Thanks to her work, her words came true: women have Congress on lock.
"Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation." - Coretta Scott King
You may know her as the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr, but Coretta Scott King was a civil rights leader in her own right in the 1960s. Her activist work extended long beyond the Civil Rights Movement: she also fought against apartheid in South Africa, championed LGBTQ rights in the 1980s, and advocated for world peace throughout her life.
"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." - Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earheart was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean–and famously disappeared while journeying across the Pacific. Her sense of adventure was unmatched, and she was dedicated to instilling that same feeling in women across the world by organizing The Ninety-Nines, a group for female pilots. She proved that an adventurous nature and a penchant for risk-taking weren't inherently masculine traits.
"Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Is there a former First Lady as quotable as Eleanor Roosevelt? We think not, and that may be because there's never been a First Lady as rebellious as her, either. Her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was President of the United States during the Civil Rights Movement. Eleanor was a staunch supporter of the Movement and was the first First Lady to invite African-Americans to visit the White House. Her activism continued long after her terms as First Lady–she spent her later years working with the United Nations and fighting for human rights.
"The final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands." - Anne Frank
The world has read Anne Frank's diary–the closest, most intimate look at the inner working of a young girl's mind–and the world basically agrees: you couldn't find a purer soul. Anne's hopeful attitude in a time of hopelessness (her Jewish family famously lived in an attic for years during World War Two to avoid being captured by the Germans) is a beacon of light for any woman (or man) in need of some inspiration.
"You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody." - Maya Angelou
Picking just one quote of Maya Angelou's was a nearly impossible task. The writer, poet, and civil rights activist has given the world an infinite amount of quotables throughout her memoirs, books of poetry, and political speeches–but her message of vulnerability, independence, and strength in the face of adversity comes through in every word she wrote.
"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept." - Angela Davis
Author and political activist Angela Davis was a radical political figure in the 1960s. Her extreme beliefs (she had ties to the Communist Party and the Black Panthers) were questioned by many, but no one can deny that her passion for equality is admirable.
"What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." - Jane Goodall
The anthropologist Jane Goodall dedicated her life to animal welfare–but don't think she wasn't also an advocate for women; in fact, she's one of the original women in STEM. Jane Goodall's study of chimpanzees broke barriers in science, disproving long-held beliefs of the scientific community. Oh, and she did all that without a formal college eduction. Inspired much?
"And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that." - Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Ruth Bader Ginsbert–the Notorious RBG, as some call her–is a Supreme Court Justice (the second woman ever to become one!) and an all-around badass woman. In her 20+ years as a Justice, she's never stopped speaking up and speaking out on behalf of women everywhere.
"You get in life what you have the courage to ask for." - Oprah Winfrey
Talk about a rags-to-riches story. Oprah was born to a single teenage mother in the South and went through her fair share of struggles. All the adversity she faced–which was a lot–wasn't enough to stop her. Now Oprah is a household name and, according to Wikipedia, North America's first and only multi-billionaire black person. Now that's inspirational.
"There is no magic to achievement. It's really about hard work, choices, and persistence." - Michelle Obama
The second First Lady to make our list is making history as we speak. Besides being the most fashion-forward woman ever to live in the White House (with an enviable set of biceps to boot), Michelle Obama is a champion of health and women's education. Her personal success story is one to pay attention to–she worked hard for everything she's achieved and is encouraging young girls to do the same.
"Gender equality not only liberates women but also men from prescribed gender stereotypes." - Emma Watson
Actress Emma Watson recently became a "slashie"–you know, actress-slash-singer, actress-slash-perfume-mogul, actress-slash-clothing-designer. But Watson's "slash" is something far more inspirational: actress/feminist icon. She joined forces with UN Women to launch the He For She movement, which encourages men to join in the fight for gender inequality. Since then, she's been full of feminist insight that will sure stand the test of time.
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